Stalking: Nuts and Bolts Solutions

•October 20, 2007 • Leave a Comment

http://www.nononsenseselfdefense.com/stalkingsolutions.htm

Abortion is murder

•August 16, 2007 • Leave a Comment

And murder tastes delicious.

Why people hate the proponents of the Mundane SF bowel movement

•August 11, 2007 • 2 Comments

Their preachy arrogance.

Their self-deluded truth claims about sci-fi history (it was certainly never about science or technology you ignorant dipshits, hard sci-fi is only a recent trend). Their complete lack of acknowledgment that environmental themes were hardly what anyone would honestly deem absent from the genre before their insipid little self-proclaimed movement came along.

Their accusation that if works of science fiction don’t measure up to their Manifesto, then it can’t possibly environmentally or politically relavent, and that the writers of said fiction never really gave a damn about what is going on now in the first place.

Thier inflated sense of importance of the sci-fi genre, and complete disregard for the fact that readership of sci-fi, and fiction in general has been lowering during the past few decades. Their turth claim about the movement’s supposed future impact on environmental policy, which in fact is naive at best. If they care so much about the survival of our species, why not campaign to get more publishers to use recycled paper? Better yet, why not join or start an environmental activist group instead of posting thier temper tantrums when someone doesn’t write or publish the kind of fiction that they’d like them to?

Their strawmen arguments about the supposed dangers of non-mundane fiction.

Their complete inability to understand why people write, much less read fiction in the first place.

Their scapegoating of science fiction writers for all the worlds environmental ills. Why won’t they blame them for mass rape and genocide while they’re at it?

Their complete inability to understand the fact that some people out there do in fact like escapist entertainment once in a while and can in fact balance that with what is going on the real world. Sure, I’m one of those people who are still disappointed by the lack of sexbots and flying cars, but my life isn’t ruined because of it. I’m fucking 30 for gods sakes. People can and do grow up and go on with their lives.

Their offensively condescending attitude towards readers as though they’re all fucking stupid moronic sheep who can’t distinguish the difference between fiction and reality.

Their inability to understand that fiction isn’t the best place to learn science and technological facts in the place anyway, and that only the really fucking naive get their science education from sci-fi novels. It’s bad enough that there are people out there who honestly believe that The Mists of Avalon was historically accurate, do we really need supposedly hard sci-fi that ends out getting it completely later on to be taken as gospel as well?

Their self-pitying whining whenever their stories are rejected by an editor or publisher. Does it ever occur to them that it isn’t a conspiracy, and their writing just happens to suck so much that even the pulp magazines won’t publish them?

James Nicoll loves pointing out scientific inaccuracies of the people in charge of the Mundane Sci-fi blog (the Earth is in fact an open system, their bashing of Atrophysics, etc), which only makes the Mundanista movement even more pathetic. That aside, the problem with these assholes never had to do with wether or not they have Ph Ds’ in physics or molecular biology. The point here is that they’re really a bunch of self-righteous condescending arrogant little pricks who are more than happy to ignore history and scientific facts when it suites them.

And this, my friends, is what makes the Mundanistas a bunch of goddammed fucking militant, humorless, and annoying asshats for whom beatings are way too good.

A few thoughts about an inane article

•May 21, 2007 • Leave a Comment

I will avoid delving into issues such as censorship or the right to privacy here, but still, I can’t help but find it hilarious that a woman who knowingly signed a confidentiality agreement (legally binding, if I am not mistaken) should have the nerve to complain that she would in the end find herself in legal trouble for even attempting to publish an unauthorized biography of the singer, especially after a bitter fallout with the star.

Let us examin the statements from this piece of work that the kind people at The Daily Mail chose to put up on their website:

…Other celebrities – Madonna, Prince Charles, Nelson Mandela – might be subjected to the scrutiny of a biographer, but not Loreena.

Not even if the author was a close friend of two decades’ standing. She was burning with self-righteous rage and determined to stop me, whatever it took.

Who wouldn’t have that type of motivation if a personal friend of theirs’ who signed a confidentiality agreement decided to violate it?

I put down the phone. I was upset that it had come to this, but felt sure the courts would protect me, however much money Loreena had. I was about to find out just how naive that hope was…

Really, you should be greatful that she wasn’t suing you for a lot more reasons than that.

But as fame and money took over her life, Loreena changed.

At first it was quite subtle; she would sometimes adopt a haughty tone with me that I had never heard before. Then, later, she started yelling at people.

Finally, she and Tim fell out. He had disagreed with her about something and she had told him in no uncertain terms: “I’m the boss. You do as I say.” Tim wasn’t prepared to be spoken to like that and he walked out.

I was devastated and tried to make peace between them, but Loreena wouldn’t budge. Nothing I could do would change her mind.

Could this be because the cult of celebrity turned her into a power-hungry bitch? Or could it be due to the fact that Tim was simply uncooperative and incompetent, or the fact that being friends with her doesn’t nessacarily a good employee/volunteer make? You can’t really tell due to such a vague statement like that here.

In fact, she became even more aggressive and we ended up in another battle with her, this time financial.

Our friendship was at an end and I was left bewildered and hurt. To my mind, fame had stolen my best friend. I was still immensely fond of Loreena and over the next five years I tried to make sense of what had happened.

More vagueness, and I suspect that little financial issue she alludes to is probably due to something that most likely was the fault of Ash in the first place (I have a hunch Ash may of taken advantage of McKennitt’s generosity, but I lack data at the moment to prove it). If she is such a victim here, why won’t she just come out and state the details and expose here now, unless she has something else to hide

The only thing I had was a story that needed telling. A story about friendship and the intoxicating power of celebrity.

For the sake of being realistic, the lesson of this cautionary tale here is about being careful of whom you choose to put your trust into regarding personal information. I can only assume, or at the very least hope, that any up and coming independent artists know better than to associate with the likes of you.

Even though my book was complimentary about her, even glorified her, she felt out of control and wanted it stopped…

…Many were incredibly trivial. One, for example, concerned a story which was the equivalent of revealing that someone had to take aspirin for a headache.

But apparently this was considered a breach of privacy.

What part of violating a business agreement and contract here do you not understand? It doesn’t matter how many good things you have said about her, her issue is about confidentiality, privacy, trust. To quote a passage in a recent interview with McKennitt in Canada.com- She believed if she didn’t protect this particular business contract, then “I might as well chuck them all out and say anything goes.”. And even that aside, according to Loreena’s website, you have had put personal information she trusted you to share with no one about previous partners, and other personal details of her private life that were not as trivial as taking aspirin.

…although characteristic of Fascist Germany…

‘Gotta love it when people go Godwin…

I’ll skip the melodramatic part where she whines about the obvious realities of the British legal system…

…For Loreena, this might mean sending one of her closest friends to jail.

I’m tempted to ask here how Loreena could possibly be your friend now, fallout and legal issues considering. But instead I’ll just say I’d prefer specifics, as to how she might just end up in jail. I’m not trying to imply it’d be impossible here, but like so many of the other statements she’s made in this page, it feels more like an attempt to create melodrama than aiming for genuine facts at hand (being presented with little more but melodramatic but vague statements can do that). I’m open-minded in regards to details I may of missed in this case, but it isn’t helpful that Ash fails to present herself as a truly convincing victim.

While it may be wrong for McKennitt to try to block this book from being published (I doubt that her sales or overall popularity will be affected one way or another no matter how nasty, trashy, or untruthful the book is), I have to question the ethics and motivations of Ms. Ash for writing and releasing it. She comes off as incredibly spiteful, and more than willing to violate both written business and personal agreements for petty reasons. If there is anything to learn from this, anyone who in the public eye would do well by avoiding Ash’s company with a ten-foot pole. May Niema Ash live with the reputation that she so richly deserves.

•March 12, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Fuck you Clive Collier. Fuck you with a white-hot curling iron.

Fuck you for convincing Lisa Gerrard to release this mess we call The Silver Tree, and not an incredible, challenging album like she made over a decade ago.

Gerrard had prepared another album, but recognised the relevance of her “meditative” music to the times.

No, Ms. Gerrard, you must do better than soundtrack abstracts and clones! We need better than this! Challenging times call for challenging music, please, listen to the criticisms of your fans, and release the record you were originally meaning to publish!

Animals In Translation

•February 20, 2007 • Leave a Comment

by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson

Review, part II

…and it gets worse. Grandin chooses to blame “abstract thinkers” for USDA problems (and fails to provide-much less bothers to attempt to-evidence that nearly everyone who works for the USDA are, I might add), yet the way she describes these difficulties makes it more plausible that it’d probably just be a good idea to put people who have worked in farm environments in charge of decision making (and we really have no reason to believe that people who work in those environments can’t be “abstract thinkers” either). But let’s not let little things such as logic and evidence-based verification get in the way of the contents in a best-selling non-fiction title.

So on page thirty we have Grandin blaming abstractification (which all “normal” people are apparently tainted with-philosophers tend to call things like this a hasty generalization fallacy) for the reason that workers at facilities in which they work don’t go inside dark buildings to figure out what the problems are. I suspect it might have to do with possible rules and regulations governing the rights of the work-force (or at least what is left of them, de-regulations considering), and the fact that most of the workers there are not there to act as engineers or architects. She then follows with yet more generalizations, this about all autistics and non-human animals-that they “don’t see their ideas of things; they see the actual things themselves. We see details that make up the world, while normal people blur all those details together into their general concept of the world.”

Well firstly, the autistic world is a bit more diverse that (however in a way, since we must all be able to experience what is going on in the world in an at least semi-coherent fashion, I suspect most of us have at least some “normal” charachteristics in order for things to make some amount of sense for us), secondly, when it comes to animals, that is, at least for now, unprovable. Grandin claims she is being paid to see details others don’t see, but after reading how stressed and bruised can lead to toughened meat, the conclusion may be more to do with long-term profits for the meat industry instead of whatever unique quality she may have.

This is then followed by a series of paragraphs with the misleading heading What Do Animals See?, which would perhaps be better called What I Think Animals See. Grandin tries to make the case that non-human animals are detailed-oriented, but provides no genuine or convincing reasons for why this may be so, because she only provides us with what she says they observe, and from a deductive argument at that. An animal may be able to observe and comprehend what the average human may not notice, but it really says nothing about their style of thought-process. In fact considering what most animals must do in order to survive in the wild (hunting, trying not to someone’s dinner, finding a safe place to sleep, etc) it might make more sense for them to get “the big picture” instead of an obsession for certain particular detail. But this possibility is not explored at all in this book. And while she does mention the work of Nancy Minshew, a researcher who has scanned the brains of autistics, there is nothing to indicate that she has done the same on non-human animals, much less anything that would show any possible connections of thought processes between autistics and animals.

I will skip the next few pages that get in to animal vision, with the exception of page 43. Grandin does, yet again, make a generalization about how all animals see (something which irritates me because not all members of the animal kingdom have vision anyway). The diversity of kingdom animalia is immense, and to simply say that “Animals see more intense contrasts of light and dark because their night vision is so much better than ours” is rather misleading. She does not seem to care, or even know, where to apply these descriptive statements. She claims that all animals are curious (like worms and sea anemones Ms. Grandin?), but as usual fails nor seems to care about what type of animal which she speaks of.

Being Oblivious

This part of the chapter goes back to the Gorillas in Our Midst video-which, by the way, doesn’t seem to have indicated or even bothered to get in to detail about exactly what type of people participated in it (how can we really be sure that they are all “normal”?), at least in the way she described it. I’ll say, however, in my experience, I can be incredibly mis-minded, and even spend hours looking for an impotant object of mine without even noticing it’s right near me, compltely oblivious. The world isn’t exactly what you’d call entirely short in autistics who sometimes fit in the absent-minded professor stereotype (though I’ll hasten to add that they don’t nessacarrily completely confrom :) ). Ah, but no, only normal humans miss weird things, but somehow with autistics and animals it’s a rarity.

Neuro-bullshit

Page 53-57 has possibly one of the most asinine descriptions of the human brain that I have ever seen. We do not have a “dog” brain, Ms. Grandin. We have an ape one. We do not have a human brain on top of a dog brain in our skulls (anyone reading this really has no idea of how hard it is for me to keep myself from using explitives as I write this). That is because human beings are apes, and did not evolve from canines.

Oh and it gets better people, when on page 55 she asserts-with no data or studies to back it up-that animals are not capable of mixed emotions (she later says the same about autistics in general-speak for yourself, my dear). What does she think she is, a telepath? A special human with magical abilities that only she can posses? Because that is the only way aside from actual evidence can she truly obtain these kinds of conclusions. Because animals can not communicate to use, at least in a much more complicated matter, about the depth of how and why they feel. At most right now we are left with observations and probability, to act truly certain is nothing less than foolish.

Emphasis on frontal lobe damage in autistics is emphasized in the section Trapped Inside The Big Picture, but there are problems with this. As far as now know about autism, it is not believed to be a result purely from a single cause. That aside, brain differences between human and non-human have mostly to do with evolutionary adaptations, and autism isn’t one, so the comparison she tries to make here is very poor. And while it may in fact be possible that humans may be more vulnerable to more brain damage and disabilities than other species due to a big neo-cortex, the fact that disabled animals in the wild simply do not survive that long, wether it is by neglect by their mother, or being an easier meal for predators, is probably a more likelier explanation than simply not being born with big frontal lobes.

I thus suffer through 57 pages by this point, and it is in the 57th page where Temple Grandin finally gets to her point-that because of the frontal lobe damage that autistic brains are,, she alleges, more like animals. Even if I were willing to put aside how hideiously poor this analogy is, how then is this different from other people who are not autistic she doesn’t really bother to say-but hey, she brought up the frontal lobe issue, so why shouldn’t she also conclude that anyone with frontal lobe damage has mental and cognitive processes closer to an animal?

Now, I know a defender of her might say that she does not say autistic frontal lobes are bad, it’s more of an imput problem with the frontal lobes. I would respond with-exactly. Members of animal species that do happen to have frontal lobes do not really appear to have any autistic symptoms (thus helping to create a horrible analogy), and whatever their visual, audio, taste, or scent sensitivities clearly have more (as I’ve already stated before) have more to do with the consequences of their evolutionary history than anything else.

Quoth Grandin: Autistic people’s frontal lobes almost never work as well as normal people’s do

Having frontal lobes that aren’t carbon-copies of an average human when you are not a member of the human species doesn’t make it close to autism, Grandin. There is no logical reason to conclude that they are in any way similar, much less should be considered to be so.

Quoth Grandin: Autistic people are closer to animals than normal people are.

No detailed lists of comparative brain scans or dissections, no years of post-doctorate work researching this, no peer-review, how in hell did this get published?

Quoth Grandin: …That’s what frontal lobes do for you: they give you the big picture. Animals see all the tiney details that go into the big picture.

Right. From the same person who says we all have a dog brain underneath our human one in our skulls. From the same person who seems more than willing to contradict herself in order to make her pseudo-scientific point. Whatever you say, Grandin.

*Skips through the animal ESP part*

*Tired, still recovering from the flu, but will finish with this chapter before going to bed, dammit*

Pages 62 through 67. A poorly made case that non-human animals process sense-data in similar ways to autistic ones. Which is laughable. Because as I already said before, animal senses are for the most part adaptive, due to this little thing we call evolution. Depending on the species, genus, family, etc, their senses are fine-tuned to find prey, to keep from becoming prey, look for mates, etc. Each species uses its senses in somewhat different ways. Autistic senses are just not as useful in similar contexts.

And yet again, she implies that autistics and animals don’t filter most things out. Well if any brain is going to function it’d have to resort to inattentive blindness, and this is something we all have to some degree, no matter what filtering problems you may have. And just because one may notice that, say, certain species of animals may appear as though little slides past their sight, hearing, and so forth, it doesn’t mean that they truly absorbe everything out there.

Quoth Gradin: There are probably some big differences, if only for the reason that animal perceptions are normal for animals, while autistic people’s perceptions not normal for people.

Alas, the logic and concept of this has not kept her from writing this book. ‘Off to bed now.

To be continued…

Animals In Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior

•February 18, 2007 • Leave a Comment

by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson

Review, Part I

Sometime before the end of last year a well-meaning acquaintance of mine told me that he realized what is wrong with me, and that he originally thought I had ADD. I thought “like an animal”, and later in the conversation (right before I spouted angrily off how Grandin was really full of it, I believe) about how Temple’s work influenced the study of whales by some researchers. Now, one can simpy brush off this type of nonsense and go on with life, but due to the fact that books with these types of arguments are taken seriously in the public sphere, and the standards of the US educational system as a whole are in fact rather low in comparison to other industrialized countries, I felt compelled to write an objection to Grandin’s truth claims. Of course, not all of the content in this book would of been possible without the aid of Catherine Johnson-however, due to the content of interview in the past year or two I think that there is little reason for me to believe that Grandin’s view differ from the writer she has worked with, thus I’ll leave the responsibility of the assertions up to Grandin. In order to avoid the possibility of using straw-men arguments, I have chosen to buy the paperback-used-for the sake of any possible updates she may of made that may contradict previous arguments (there were, alas not that much, if any). Apologies for article lengths, but I believe there is a need to address a number of problems with this book. Which are many.
In this post I shall begin with the first chapter. And so it begins-

Grandin opens the chapter with her personal life story, most noticeably with how thanks to her autism, she is supposedly better than “normal” people when it comes to understanding how animals think, and how it makes understanding them easier. (One cannot help but wonder if this makes people such as the like of Jane Goodall simply nothing more than chopped liver). In the midst of telling us about her past experience with animals as a teenager, she complains how animals and humans are “supposed to be together” and that most of our contact with them these days is merely due to cat and dog ownership (there is no mention of possible historical and economic reasons why we can’t all live a more country-like life). She argues that horses are good for teenagers, adds that a psychiatrist friend of her’s agrees, but adds no references or citations to support this assertion. This isn’t to say she might not be correct about giving responsibility to teenagers in this way is a good idea, but this is, however, a sign of a much larger problem with this overall piece of work.

I will skip the details of her experience with horses and horse riding (and as much as I loved horses and ponies in my teens, I could never really get myself to enjoy riding them, much less enjoy the responsibility of having to take care them. I was always more of a city person than a suburban or country-but I digress). I will instead rush to her following claim that autistic people think the way that non-human animals do. An unprovable one at that, but I’ll be wasting much of my time here explaining why it most likely can not be so. Despite her apparent belief that autism somehow presents a “way-station” between normal humans and non-human animals, there is little if anything from this chapter, much less the entire book to honestly consider if she is really correct. She also brings up the matter of autistic savants, and how non-human animals may be like them, and in fact may be “genuises” in contrast to “normal” people. She seems to fail to make the connection that these “talents”, if you will, have more to do with evolutionary and ecological factors than simply matters genuis. Conversly, one could also argue that humans could also be the true genuises here, after all, how many other species on this planet can handle basic algebra, much less read? Aside from that, the fact that she then compares herself to an astronomer predicting the existence of an outerspace object that is invisible to the nakes eye is rather laughable, to put it politely.

We are then introduced to the famous (or infamous, depending on which circles you hang out with) behaviorist who was BF Skinner. We discover that he had misogynist tendencies (even though Grandin doesn’t directly accuse him of sexual harassment when she met him in her late teens). Before she tells us how he tries to touch her legs, she gives us a fallacy by assertion which will be later used to help “prove” her point about animal thinking and behavior-that all autistics think in pictures. Despite admitting in fact that she was indeed incorrect in the past, that not all of us do think the way that she does, she chooses to contradict herself anyway in order to make her case. I will skip her defences of behaviorism, and of Lovaas’s methods (and in a way, I understand why, you spend that many decades dependant on a profession for your livelyhood, no point in risking biting the hand that feeds), and get to the part where she ironically condemns-and discusses-the problems with anthropormophism. The fact that she continues to apply her experience with no evidence-based verification methods with how autistics, normal people, and non-human animals allegedly think yet again seem to go over her head.

Decades ago, if you wanted to study psychology, it was all mostly all behaviorist based. You didn’t need to know much about basic biology, neurobiology (not that it was even considered important anyway, considering behaviorist philosophy), chemistry, or even basic algebra. The lack of understanding algebraic and chemical equations by the author does seem to make a lot of sense in how she has come to some of her conclusions, on the other hand I do not want to imply that you need a Ph.D. in biology to understand aything about it. The academic and working environments from fifty years ago, however, can be understood as a profound influence on the understanding of science, though. She no doubt would of had a lot of trouble getting into engineering today because of the fact that she flunked algebra (this isn’t to say math for her work isn’t used, there are probably engineering and architects who interpret her work mathematicly for real-world applications). But I am digressing here..

On page sixteen we are given a better detailed understanding of how she thinks (visually, of course), and how it affects and helps her work. Unfortunately, she starts to make generalizations about other people, such as behaviorists. She calls them all verbal thinkers (despite her own academic background), nor provides any references proving that even most of them are. Perhaps most “normal” people are verbal thinkers, but she fails to make a case why only verbal thinking causes problems for experiments, not other possiblities such as institutional problems. Despite citing differences between her and other “normal” people, it becomes clear that she taught herself to look out for things that non-human animals may be aware of, involving her own concern for animal welfare and good pattern-matching skills. Her own imagination, and at the very least attempts at empathy seem to be much better explanation for her ability to work and design and repair problems of slaughter houses and farms than simply autism itself. Trying to put herself in the animals’ shoes is a more likely explanation that just autism alone.

Instead of putting the obvious two and two together, though, she uses her experiences with cattle and what she notices from what they notice as a way of trying to weasle out of anthropormorphic accusations, and use it to prove that she now “knows” that animals are visual thinkers. On page twenty-four she brings up an experiment called Gorillas in Our Midst as a way of proving somehow that only “normal” people can be oblivious to things in their environment, but there is little proof that everyone in the study had neuro-typical brains, nor was there any reason why it should be implied that autistics can’t be obvlivious to things in their environment either. Our filtering mechanisms may be different, but despite any of our differences no brain can possibly take everything in, and inattentive blindness is prevelant in anything that has more than simply a functioning brain stem.

To be continued…

 
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